Materials Scientist Receives DARPA Young Faculty Award to Advance Cooling Technologies

Aaswath Raman DARPA Young Faculty Award

Sep 10, 2021

UCLA Samueli Newsroom
Aaswath Raman, a UCLA assistant professor of materials science and engineering, has received a 2021 Young Faculty Award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the U.S. Department of Defense.

The award includes a two-year, $500,000 grant to support his research on thermo-photonic cooling devices. These devices combine electronic and photonic innovations to enable LEDs to act as electroluminescent coolers that can help bring down the temperatures of other electronic devices, such as infrared imaging sensors. The research project could receive an additional $500,000 in funding after the initial two years.

DARPA’s Young Faculty Award program recognizes rising research stars at U.S. academic institutions and provides funding, mentoring and industry contacts to awardees early in their careers so they can develop their research to meet national security needs. Ultimately, the program aims to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers in the research community who will focus a significant portion of their future careers on defense and national security issues.

Raman’s research focuses on how to control light and heat at the nanoscale. Working from a multidisciplinary computational and experimental perspective, his laboratory designs, creates and studies metamaterials and photonic devices that can shape, absorb and emit light in highly unusual but advantageous ways over a broad range of wavelengths. His group also connects these advancements to solid-state and electronic devices to enable new functionalities.

In addition, Raman has invented a range of methods and materials to cool down buildings without traditional air conditioning, even harnessing the coldness of the night sky as a tool to reduce the temperatures of objects on earth. He has also developed superwhite paints to better reflect the sun’s rays away from buildings, keeping exterior surfaces cooler than the surrounding air temperature. Recently, Raman has been fine-tuning materials for interior walls that can help keep rooms cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. His latest work has yielded fundamental breakthroughs in optical materials to beam broad-spectrum thermal radiation in specific directions.

Raman, who cofounded the startup SkyCool Systems, joined the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering in 2018. Since then, he has received several early career honors, including the Hellman Fellowship in 2020, a Sloan Research Fellowship in 2019 and a Materials Research Society Robinson Award for Science and Technology in Renewable Energy in 2018. He is part of a 10-person UCLA team on the Heat Resilient L.A. project that earned a $956,000 award in the UCLA Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Sandpit competition in January. Raman has been featured in many media outlets, including UCLA Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post, New Scientist and CBC Radio. He also delivered a TED talk that has been viewed more than 2 million times.